E-bikers often do not know exactly how far they can ride with one battery charge and may avoid longer trips and hills, taking away the joy of exploring trails farther from home.
E-bike range anxiety
The fear of getting stranded with an electric bicycle, holding up the rest of a cycling group, asking for help, and "looking stupid" when the battery runs empty.
As with electric vehicles, range anxiety is a problem for manufacturers and riders alike. Range anxiety is the number one obstacle to electric vehicle (EV) adoption. It is the fear of getting stranded that holds people back from adopting EVs. Although less prominent, range anxiety also affects e-bikers.
Range anxiety is the number one reason people do not take part in our rides. The fear of getting stranded, holding up the rest of the group, asking for help, and "looking stupid" when the battery runs empty, stops people from e-biking.
Although the fear is real, facts show that very few e-bikers get stranded. None of our participants ever ran out of battery power, but we have plenty of members who experience range anxiety.
What factors determine the range of e-bikes?
Many environmental factors determine the range of an e-bike. Think of terrain (incline, type of hills), wind conditions, temperature, and the biking trails' surface (gravel, dirt, concrete, asphalt).
Add to these the type, weight, quality, reliability, and age of the battery pack, the motor's efficiency, an e-biker's fitness level and riding style (cruising or fast accelerations), the biker's weight, and, the e-bike's weight, wind resistance, and tire pressure.
It is impossible to keep track of so many variables. Although you can control what terrain and weather conditions to e-bike in, you do not want to think about all the factors. It takes away the fun of e-biking.
You should be able to jump on an e-bike confident that you can bike home without having to perform complicated mathematical calculations, such as understanding the inner-workings of batteries and motors, and keeping detailed energy consumption logs.
What you can do to reduce range anxiety
You can control range anxiety by buying an e-bike from a reputable manufacturer. Leading manufacturers of e-bike motors and batteries understand that the quality of the motor and durability of the battery-system are essential to the brand's reputation and your well-being.
If you buy an e-bike for $500 all-inclusive, do not necessarily expect its battery system to be reliable and long-lasting. The e-bike works fine for a while, but the real trouble may start soon after the one-year warranty expires.
Suddenly batteries fail, locks break, cords get eroded, chargers break, motors stop working and board computers keep resetting. We have seen it all. Without dealer support, you may end up with a defunct system and an e-bike with no range at all.
Quality comes at a price
A Bosch lithium-ion 500 Wh powerpack retails above $800 and over $1,000 for 650 Wh; this is the price for just the battery. Other manufacturers charge similar prices for quality battery packs.
Overview of popular e-bike battery & motor systems
Bosch produces batteries and e-bike motors. This German company is known for its quality products and it supplies components to Riese & Muller, Tern, Cannondale, Bulls, Trek, etc..
Fazua is a manufacturer of e-bike drive systems focusing on the weight and efficiency of road e-bikes.
Although perhaps best known for producing suspension systems, SR Suntour produces rear hub drives known for their quality and innovation.
Specialized works with Brose motors and uses its batteries.
Shimano produces high-quality motors and batteries for brands including Raleigh, Trek, and Cannondale.
Bafang is a manufacturer of affordable e-mobility components and complete e-drive systems, including batteries and motors.
Brose is known for its e-bike motors and has started to produce its own batteries. The company supplies components to Specialized and Harley Davidson, among others.
Yamaha produces batteries and motors for its e-bike lines and brands such as Giant. The manufacturer is credited with inventing of e-bike motor-assist system in the early 1990s.
Panasonic produces high-quality Lithium-ion technology cells.
These companies' engineers have figured out which motor/battery/computer combination provides the most reliable range.
You will have taken an essential step in reducing range anxiety by relying on established e-bike manufacturers' engineering solutions.
E-bike range calculators
Manufacturers have developed online range calculators and real-time range computers to estimate the range of an e-bike.
Bosch's e-bike range calculator
The online calculator takes many variables into account, but it lacks information about e-bike models. Bosch does not produce e-bikes, so it can only estimate the range based on its products (motors, controllers, and batteries).
Specialized goes a step further with its online range estimator to predict the range based on the model of the e-bike, not just the motor and battery.
Specialized also has a nifty tool in its Mission Control app for e-bike models starting from 2019. Called "Smart Control," you can enter the distance you want to bike, and the app automatically regulates the e-bike's motor energy consumption during the ride to ensure you do not run out of juice.
You can even select how much battery power you want remaining when arriving at your destination. This is ideal to manage range anxiety. If you know that you will always get back, the anxiety should disappear.
When it comes to technological advances to reduce range anxiety, Specialized offers the best solution currently in the market.
Reliable e-bike batteries, computers, and motors are expensive
The more you invest in quality, the less nervous you need to be about the range of an e-bike, as the systems provide a reliable estimate of the range.
With quality components, you know how far you can e-bike and plan accordingly.
Strategy Number 1: Buy an e-bike from a well-known quality brand and refrain from experimenting with inexpensive online offers that are just too good to be true.
What else you can do to reduce range anxiety
Biking is so much more fun if you can relax and enjoy the full potential of your e-bike. Consider the following additional 14 strategies to reduce any range anxiety.
Modern controls, software, and calculators provide an estimate of the range of an e-bike. They take away some range anxiety, but not all. There are too many variables that cannot be measured to predict an e-bike's range accurately.
Leave the technicalities of range management to the engineers of e-bike manufacturers and enjoy longer rides with the 15 strategies.
E-bike Lovers' E-bike Range Anxiety Mitigation Program
We understand that range anxiety is difficult. No one wants to run out of battery and hold up the group.
E-bike Lovers' dedication to combat range anxiety during e-biking events
Charge the Battery
We remind e-bikers to charge the battery the day before we ride. Yes, remember to charge your battery fully overnight. It makes an enormous difference. Reading the battery manual also helps.
Swap a Battery
We suggest to e-bikers that an extra battery is a worthwhile investment to enjoy longer rides.
An extra battery is expensive, but often a necessity, if you want to e-bike anxiety-free on longer trips.
Steep terrain consumes more battery power. E-biking on gravel roads also consumes more energy.
Each E-bike Lovers' trail description has information on the terrain to aid with energy-consumption planning.
If you run out of juice, we either tow you back or transport you and your e-bike to a nearby bike shop or to the starting point of the trail.
There is no need to feel anxious about getting stranded. We are here to help and no one will be left behind.
Enjoy the ride!
Gregory discovered e-biking after 20 years of overseas work as project manager for the World Bank and USAID. He writes about e-mobility and e-biking in the DMV area, and loves the outdoors (white water kayaking, hiking and biking). He lives with his wife, Janet and Queenie the cat, in Washington DC. He recently e-biked 4,685+ miles across America and raised $180,000 for a charity.
Favorite e-bike: Riese & Muller Super Charger Class 3 touring e-bike.
Dr. Gregory F. Maassen
FOUNDER E-BIKE LOVERS